While Extreme Rules is just a couple days away, it's still unclear if the event will be headlined by John Cena vs. Ryback for the WWE Championship or the steel cage grudge match between Brock Lesnar and Triple H. If the WWE brass is smart, the former will close the show.
There is no question that Lesnar vs. Triple H is a draw, but it's a match that will be taking place for the third time in less than a year. Their battles at SummerSlam and WrestleMania XXIX were highly entertaining and there is little doubt that they'll leave it all on the line yet again at Extreme Rules.
Despite that, conventional wisdom would seem to suggest that Cena and Ryback should put a bow on things Sunday night. Aside from someone ultimately winning two out of three matches, there isn't anything on the line between Lesnar and Triple H. The grandest prize in professional wrestling will be hanging in the balance when Cena faces Ryback in a Last Man Standing match, however.
The main complaint throughout CM Punk's 434-day WWE Championship reign was that he was often usurped by Cena when it came to the main event. Now that Cena is once again in possession of the title, it would essentially be hypocritical to push him out of the main event scene. In fact, it would damage the prestige of the WWE Championship.
Over the past few weeks, the WWE has aired plenty of Extreme Rules commercials and one of them focuses solely on Lesnar vs. Triple H. It's pretty uncommon for the WWE to push a match that significantly if it isn't going to be the main event. Hopefully, the creative team decides to go in a different direction, though.
Promoting Lesnar vs. Triple H is obviously a smart business move since Lesnar has wider appeal than anyone on the roster right now. Cena may be the best-known wrestler in the world, but Lesnar has both WWE and UFC fans who want to watch him, so it makes a lot of sense to market him in order to increase pay-per-view buys.
With that said, people who want to see Lesnar are going to watch the pay-per-view regardless of when he wrestles. If Lesnar vs. Triple H goes on before Cena vs. Ryback, people aren't going to change the channel once Lesnar vs. Triple H is over. They already paid their $55, so they're going to sit through the main event whether it's the match they truly want to see or not.
When it comes to the product itself, Cena and Ryback should unquestionably compete in the main event. For one, the WWE is trying to build Ryback as the next big heel. The effectiveness of that thus far is debatable, but Ryback is definitely more interesting and he has flashed a bit more personality as of late, which is even apparent on Twitter.
If the WWE truly wants to get Ryback over, he needs to be going after the WWE Championship in the main event. Having Ryback wrestle earlier in the night would create the perception that the WWE doesn't believe in him as a top guy. Perhaps it isn't true, but the same thing happened with Punk, so the WWE needs to tread carefully.
In addition to that, the likelihood of The Shield interfering in Cena vs. Ryback appears to be fairly high. The Shield has continued to stick its nose in the business of Cena and Ryback over the past several weeks, so it's logical to conclude that Dean Ambrose, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns will play a role.
The Shield is almost guaranteed to have the United States Championship and Tag Team Championships in tow by the end of the night as all three Shield members are vying for titles. There would be no better way to punctuate The Shield's big night than by allowing the group to beat down Cena, Ryback or both and stand tall with their belts raised high.
Although a draw seems like the best course of action in the Cena vs. Ryback match, it wouldn't be a huge shock to see Ryback prevail thanks to interference from The Shield. If that happens, then the lasting image of the night should be Ryback posing with the title rather than Lesnar reigning supreme over Triple H as both men are part-time superstars anyway.
Lesnar may pull in some fringe fans, but the ones who are always around want to see proper emphasis placed on the WWE Championship and current stars such as Ryback and The Shield. Even if Cena vs. Ryback doesn't measure up to Lesnar vs. Triple H in terms of match quality, it must go on last.
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